This letter was written by 17 year-old Bethunia Perkins Smith (1830-1863), the daughter of Gen. Nathaniel Green Smith (1802-1869) and Sarah (“Sallie”) Kimbrough Martin (1804-1882). Bethany’s parents were from North Carolina originally and moved to Hardeman County in west Tennessee until 1847 when they moved to Dallas County, Arkansas. Bethunia married Major William Archer Lea (1818-1878).
Bethunia wrote the letter to her 2nd cousin, Martha Rivers McNeill (1827-1887), the daughter of Malcolm McNeill (1796-1875) and Martha Rivers (1800-1827) of Hemphill, Christian County, Kentucky. Amanda and Martha’s mothers were sisters and the daughters of Capt. Thomas Rivers (1757-1827) and Elizabeth Edmunds Jones (1764-1830) of Virginia.
Martha R. McNeill married Willie Perry Boddie (1822-1870) in 1848. At the time she received this letter from her cousin, Martha was attending the Nashville Female Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Rev. Collins D. Elliott (1810-1899) was the principal of the academy between 1840 and 1866.
Addressed to Miss Martha McNeill, Nashville, Tennessee
Care of Gen’l. John P. Caruthers
Buena Vista [Dallas County, Arkansas]
September 20th 1847
Miss Martha McNeill
My dear cousin,
I expect you think strange of my not answering your letter before this time. It has been about two weeks since I received your long, long wished-for letter and I would have answered it immediately had not some of our Tennessee friends been staying with us. One of them is the beau I’ve been telling you about, and as he is today hunting, I must write to my ever to be remembered Cousin Martha. Cousin, I’m rather inclined to think that he’ll visit Kentucky this fall or winter. Wouldn’t you like to see him? Cousin, since I received your letter, I’ve heard that Mr. Charles Perkins called on you again and you refused to see him; and previous to hearing that, I heard it conjectured that you and Mr. Perkins would marry. You must tell me all about it.
Cousin, I’d give almost any imaginable thing to see you. I didn’t know that I loved you hardly half so much till our separation. Cousin, I wish you would come over here now and stay with me all the winter, and them we could travel about as much together as we chose. I wish you lived over here. It is a delightful country indeed, and the society is just as good as we could wish it.
Cousin, there is a camp meeting to commence the eighth day of October about two miles from here at the “Mountain Spring” camp ground. It is strange that there will be, at the least calculation, three thousand persons there. Oh! I wish you were here, Cousin, most sincerely. We’d enjoy ourselves so much, I know. Pa will have a tent.
Cousin, what do you think I’m doing besides writing? I’m eating a sweet potato and it is mighty good. It is just before dinner and I’m hungry, and that accounts for its tasting so good.
Cousin, tomorrow if nothing prevents, we’re all going to the potters to see them make flower pots and all sorts of things. The next day we expect to go to Princeton, our county seat. I’ve visited very little since I came out here but if you’ll come (as I before proposed) this fall, I’ll go to every place where we can see any fun. Cousin, please come over immediately. I’ll mention to Ann Irwin in my answer to her letter all about our expected visit to New Orleans. There was a gentleman here the other day who has lived in New Orleans several years and he gave it as his opinion that February was decidedly the best time to visit the city. What do you think of it?
Cousin, I hardly ever tasted such a good cake as I made the other day by the directions you sent me. To my taste, it makes the best cake I ever tasted. Every person who has yet tasted it praised it very much, and so you say they did in Kentucky. I think it must be really fine.
Cousin Martha, the other day we were sitting in the parlor and we heard Pa ask someone in, and who do you think it was? Will you believe me if I’ll tell you? Cousin, it was Cousin Mary McNeill’s old beau Worbourne Young. He was very wet indeed, having camped out the previous night in a very hard rain. He was on his way to Tennessee after his father’s family. There were two widows in the wagon he was carrying back. I wonder if he fell in love with both of them. Pherebe says give her best love to Laura, and tell her she’d like to see her. She says Laura has treated her badly as she has written to her twice and never got a line in return.
Cousin, you said Mr. Hart went to see you to talk about me, but I’ll venture to say that you would not have been willing for me to have heard all your conversations. I can’t imagine how this paper got so much blotted. Is cousin Lizzy in Kentucky? If so, present her with my very best wishes and tell her I’d be delighted to see her. Also Cousin Malcom and Lady. I should have been much pleased to have been at the camp meeting with you and Miss Caruthers but I’ll like it much better for you and her to come to ours, or if not then, at any other time in the world. I’ll be most happy to see you.
My best respects to all my acquaintances there. Cousin, I haven’t received a single letter from Nashville since you left. I can’t imagine why the girls don’t write to me. You must write soon and fill up every place. Mother and Pa send their best love to you all. Don’t forget to write. Your cousin, — B. P. S.